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Nov 25 2021

How can NSPA assist in European Capability BUILDING?

Op-ed article by NSPA General Manager Ms Stacy Cummings

Article originally published in the Berlin Security Conference Magazine

In recent years, the European Union has taken further efforts to address its long-term security and defence challenges. Simultaneously, NATO and EU cooperation has been strengthened through increased cooperation in operations and capability development. It is important to continue building this cooperation by exploring future operational requirements and avoiding duplication or overlapping efforts in order to deliver the greatest operational output at the lowest cost to taxpayers.

Democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law are principles upheld by both organisations. We share territories, population, members, borders, neighborhoods and, we share the same challenges. Terrorism, cyber threats and climate change are global challenges that no country or continent can face alone. Today's environment requires the development and nurturing of an even closer relationship in security and defence.

We are natural partners and we need to work together: this is well reflected in the "NATO 2030" agenda. This transatlantic initiative looks forward and well into the next decade with three main priorities: to keep our Alliance militarily strong; to increase its political strength; and to ensure the adoption of a more global approach. Ultimately, NATO 2030 aims to strengthen the transatlantic bond, and to deepen cooperation with the EU.

The Alliance recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence, which, at the same time, contributes to a fair sharing of responsibilities. As such, the development of coherent, complementary and interoperable defence capabilities, notably by avoiding unnecessary duplication, is key to the joint efforts to make the Euro-Atlantic area safer. The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) contributes to this objective through its multinational framework, programmes and capabilities.

Stronger together, Avoiding Duplication

Over the years, the European defence has seen both cooperation among nations and individual national efforts. Nations have invested in their own national weapon systems, individually bearing the associated costs of maintenance, development, training or spare parts. At the same time, nations have developed their national defence industries to ensure their own provision and avoid reliance on other nations for armament supplies. This national approach has unavoidably generated higher costs for the nations and the duplication of capabilities.
This model is no longer affordable. Fragmented cooperation and unnecessary duplication generate higher costs for the nations and leads to inefficiencies. By pooling and sharing resources, individual nations, whether NATO or EU, or both, can be more efficient, achieve economies of scale and have access to cost-efficient and more capable solutions for their own national or collective defence. It is in this area that NSPA is an attractive option for the nations, as one of our major strengths is to support nations in building multinational capabilities and improve interoperability.

NSPA provides a unique multinational cooperation mechanism: Support Partnerships. Established at the initiative of two or more NATO nations wishing to organise common support and services activities around one specific weapon system or a class of systems, this mechanism enables the consolidation and centralisation of requirements reducing costs and logistics footprint and providing a common and efficient support under a ready-to-go legal framework.

Through Support Partnerships, participating Nations combine their efforts by consolidating development and procurement activity, increasing the effectiveness of capability acquired and reducing their logistics burden while achieving significant economies of scale. The Support Partnership format also allows participating Nations to discuss their logistics support challenges so that common and individual requirements are identified and addressed - collectively and affordably.

NSPA also offers an à la carte service and national requirements may be consolidated at Support Partnership level. Our current portfolio covers close to 100 major weapon systems with capabilities range from Air Surveillance, Ground Based Air Defence, Fixed and Rotary Wing Aircraft, Maritime Support, Land Combat Vehicles and Rockets and Missiles to Unmanned Aerial Systems.

An excellent example of the success of this mechanism is The Multi Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF). The MMF programme provide its six participating nations (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands) with strategic air tanker and strategic transport and medical evacuation capabilities.

Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands are the MMF six participating nations

In 2012, the European Defence Agency (EDA) initiated the MMF programme to address the long-standing European shortfall in the air-to-air refuelling capacity. Since then, the initiative has grown into a mature programme managed by the NSPA and supported by the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) for the acquisition phase. Today, with five out of nine aircraft delivered, the military unit has started to perform military operational missions, paving the way to achieve Initial Operational Capability.

The MMF provides not only an excellent example of cooperation between the EU and NATO and their respective agencies, it also gives testimony to how nations can cooperate, pooling and sharing resources to access state of the art capabilities that would be difficult or impossible to access individually. All the nations involved, irrespective of their size and the required number of flying hours, have access to the MMF capabilities. The programme has developed a transparent and fair cost sharing mechanism based on flying hour costs and outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding. This enables smaller nations to join with a limited amount of flying hours but still with assured access to an entire fleet of aircraft. In addition, larger nations benefit from economies of scale offered by this multinational cost sharing arrangement.

Nations may also leverage the Support Partnership mechanism to address individual national requirements. For instance, Albania and Bulgaria have recently joined our Helicopter Support Partnership. Both countries operate COUGAR helicopter fleets that require maintenance operations. Within days from joining the partnership, NSPA started the overhaul of the first helicopters making use of existing contracts. As a result, both nations benefit from the consolidation of requirements, satisfying urgent national requirements within a very short timeframe, while reducing costs.

For years, the Agency has also supported many European cooperation programmes and initiatives. From the automated support provided for the TIGER and NH90 helicopters, to the A400M aircraft support that NSPA rendered OCCAR and the support to the COBRA radar.

In addition, since 2015, NSPA has been developing its acquisition, planning and development capabilities as instructed by the North Atlantic Council. We look to the future to help Allies identify and develop multinational cooperative projects to deliver key defence capabilities required to face the security challenges of today and tomorrow.

An important and recent initiative in this area is the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC). A significant amount of the current helicopter fleets in service with NATO and European Allies will reach the end of their life cycle in the 2035-40 period, with the subsequent need for replacements. The NGRC offers a multinational framework under which participants can combine efforts towards the design, the development and eventually the acquisition of the next generation of medium multi-role rotorcraft capabilities.

The NGRC is a potential successor to the Merlin Mk4

France, Germany, Greece and Italy, with the United Kingdom in the lead, are the participating nations. Spain, the Netherlands and the United States are observer nations. Our Agency has been entrusted by the nations to act as the Executing Agent for the Concept Stage. In this phase and based on the nations' requirements, we are looking for solutions for a multinational fleet construct that meets the nations' needs and that enhances interoperability.

It is clear that there are many ways in which NSPA can assist to build European defence capability. Whether for current or future, national or collective requirements, nations will always find effective and cost efficient solutions if they come to NSPA.

In 2020, over 60% of the requirements placed with NSPA in 2020 were placed by European Nations, with Germany, Italy and Spain as some of the major customers.

My ambition as the new NSPA General Manager is to further grow the NSPA portfolio of capabilities and our customer base, while ensuring the Agency remains an attractive option for all NATO Allies and Partner Nations. This includes expanding our role as a capability enabler for European nations enhancing multinational cooperation and interoperability.

Story by NATO Support and Procurement Agency

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